For all of those advocates hoping Arizona may join other states like Colorado in legalizing marijuana, Safer Arizona had a disappointing announcement recently. The legalization efforts will be abandoned for 2014 after signature-gathering efforts fell far short.
“It was around a third of what we were after,” said Mikel Weisser, executive director of the organization. “It’s not going to be a number that we are rallying behind, it’s a benchmark to improve from.”
The group was tasked with gathering 250,000 signatures in order to get a legalization initiative on the November ballot. But the all-volunteer effort couldn’t make it happen.
Weisser says they lacked the funding and manpower to get all of the signatures needed. There were only four volunteer organizers pushing the campaign, and they all held other full-time employment obligations, only able to work on the effort part-time.
But that wasn’t the only problem.
Pro-marijuana advocates weren’t 100% behind the initiative. As written, the measure would have put licensing powers in the hands of a revenue-related department, according to AZCentral.com, taking it away from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Weisser said that while advocates supported the group’s energy and attempt, they questioned what the bill would “do for the business model.”
Still, Safer Arizona isn’t done. They plan on organizing and redoubling efforts for a 2016 initiative, one that “reflects the needs of the community.” They are hoping to join forces with the nationally recognized Marijuana Policy Project, one of the groups instrumental in crafting the 2012 Colorado legalization ballot initiative.
“Over the next couple years we will be building a broad coalition of community activists, local leaders, organizations and businesses that are committed to passing a law that regulates marijuana similarly to alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project about Arizona’s outlook.
“One of the things we have is tens of thousands of people who have already signed for us, and hundreds of people who have already volunteered for us and now we will be able to build out of that a much mightier ballot initiative,” Weisser said.
Until then, marijuana possession, production, and distribution remain criminal offenses, punishable by jail time and costly fines.